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It is officially colder in Lausanne than I have felt back home in Georgia, the days are too short, school work is piling up, and the cheapest thing in the market is chocolate.

Needless to say–I am definitely gaining weight. All the “Freshman 15” I was supposed to gain my freshman year of college but ended up losing that much, I am definitely making up for this year (Shall we say the Study abroad 16?”) and it is difficult not to.

A cheap diet in Switzerland is yogurt, cheese, chocolate, and wine. And I was happy surviving on those four food groups until all my friends started declaring “better diets” because of weight gain. And that is when I noticed that I, too, have put on a few pounds.

But how can I possibly stay skinny when everything here tastes so good? Of course, the Swiss chocolate sweetly melts on your tongue, good Vaudoise wine complements it perfectly with rich, strong grape liquid. Yogurt is creamy, all types of cheese are chilled to perfection, vegetables and fruit are always in perfect condition. Christmas is coming, and warm roasted chestnuts (marroni) straight from the pot are in a welcoming stand on every corner. Food has never been so difficult to ignore.

And all my neighbors love to cook. And what’s better–they love to share their food. How can I possibly pass up a fabulous rice omelette or Taiwanese-style beef? Or Australian sweet potato soup or Italian “sweet salami” cake? I can’t–I give in to the power of food, glorious food.

Food is the essence of life. It reflects cultures and values. It brings people together who normally would not talk. Food forces people to take time out of their day to really enjoy eating and pause their busy lives to learn more about the real people surrounding them at the table. This is a lesson from Europe that I want to keep for the rest of my life. Santé! Cheers! Bon app!